Do you have to fake it to make it?

This week I was asked to give a talk at Nottingham University on faking it until you make it in business. Is it something we need to do for success, or does it undermine our very character making us feel like an imposter?

Would love to know what you think!

The cons of faking it until you make it

Faking it to you make it can be closely associated with our old friend – Imposter Syndrome. The idea that you don’t deserve to be where you are, or have the skills needed to do the job. The feeling that you are going to get found out at some point – fingers pointing straight at you.

If you are faking it, is that because deep down you don’t believe that you deserve to be where you are? Or that you have to be more than what you are? That you are a fake or a fraud?

This idea of faking it, or having to fake it can feed your inner critic and create inner conflict. Making you feel unsure of who you really are. Destabilising your very sense of being. Does it underline our feelings of not being enough?

All of this can lead to chronic stress. If you are constantly on edge, always feeling like you are faking it, you’re going to end up burnt out, dissociated and undermined.

And constant pressure to fake it ends up with you wearing a mask, hiding behind some perceived version of a better you. Miles away from the authentic self that connects you to your audience.

To be in business, you need a good dollop of self-belief. After all whether you are selling services or products, you’ve poured your heart and soul into it and you need to be able to go out there and make sales.

There is also the issue of what you are faking? Are you faking a perceived version of what a successful businesswoman looks like? If you are faking it, are you reaching for an ideal that doesn’t even exist? And in that case perpetuating the idea of what it means to be a businesswoman, therefore making the next generation live up to this unattainable ideal?

My business story

When I first started my business, it was called Heard Media. My brand photos were of me in high heels, with a business jacket. I talked about my team on my website (even though it was just a couple of other freelancers I could call upon). I used the royal ‘we’. I bleached most of the Debbie out of the business and I acted as I thought businesswomen should act.

It was tiring. I found it hard to write the copy for my website. I couldn’t blog effectively, because what was the voice of this ‘thing’ I had made up. I also wasn’t winning any awards at the bank.

Then I relaunched as debbiedooodah. The thing I’d always wanted to call my business, but felt I couldn’t because it sounded silly. I re-did all my photos and my favourite ones are of my open-mouthed and looking faintly stupid. I started wearing lots of yellow, swearing and slowly telling stories about who I was as a person.

I almost instantly doubled my income. I realised that people buy from people. Whether you are B2B or B2C – that’s all bollocks, because business is always about people. People shaking hands and doing business with each other because they like each other.

The pros of faking it until you make it

There are definitely some pros to faking it until you make it. One of my first freelance jobs was running the social media for a charity in Camden. I knew nothing about social media. But I knew marketing. So I said yes, I’ll do that and I learned.

Sometimes a healthy bit of bluffing can go a long way. Unless it is rocket science or brain surgery, you do have the capacity to learn new things. You have google, youtube, blogs and amazing TED lectures.

Sometimes it’s about taking a calculated risk and pushing your boundaries. Stretching your comfort zones. If you always stay in the place where you feel comfortable you’re not going to get to grow.

Faking it can be about trusting yourself that you can do it! And there is psychological proof that you can re-wire and trick your brain. Believing that you are capable of new challenges, rising to the occasion.

This is where the law of attraction and affirmations come in. Saying and writing down things as if they are already true – so you believe it is so, take the actions to make things happen and then it becomes so.

Every time we ‘fudge it’ we learn new skills and grow in confidence. Rosalyn Palmer called it jump-leads for the brain – which I love!

So I think there are definite pros to faking it until you make it. This idea of healthy bluffing. I suppose it’s just worth being aware that you’re not trying to stretch too far to an ideal that actually doesn’t exist. And you fake it so hard, you get lost in the process and forget who you are.

And the picture? That’s me in my Heard Media business pose!

Want to read more about my story?